Thinkpad Keyboard

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

ThinkPad is the brandname of IBM's laptop. It began in 1992, and is well known in 1990s as the best solidly-built high-quality laptop. ThinkPad is sold to a Chinese company, Lenovo, in 2005.

Here, we look at the evolution of ThinkPad keyboard.

ThinkPad Keyboard 1994

ThinkPad 360PE keyboard 42810
ThinkPad 360PE keyboard, year 1994. [image source deskthority. photo by micrex22]

In the beginning, the IBM ThinkPad keyboard physical layout is pretty much normal, by just moving IBM PC Keyboards (1981) keys into a smaller space.

Note the standard key cluster Insert Delete ⌦ Home End PageUp PageDown on upper right.

It also has PrintScreen ScrollLock Pause, and full F1 to F12 function keys.

Also, note that the number pad are embedded in the right-hand side of the keyboard. You press the NumLock key (by Fn +ScrollLock ), then the right hand letter keys becomes number pad.

Note the red dot. That's a trackpoint. ThinkPad is famous for it. Many people love the trackpoint.

Here is a IBM keyboard of the same era, for comparison.

ThinkPad Keyboard 1998

ThinkPad i series keyboard 44661
ThinkPad i series keyboard, year ~1998 to 2001. [image source deskthority. photo by micrex22]

Note the colored app launch keys, for opening browser “home page”, email, a document button, a search button. Dedicated application launch keys are popular since ~1996, the beginning of internet boom.

Also added is the ❖ Window key and ▤ Menu key. Everything else is about the same. The ❖ Window and ▤ Menu keys first appeared on Microsoft Natural Keyboard, for Microsoft Windows 95.

ThinkPad Keyboard 2011

The ThinkPad keyboard layout didn't change much since, until 2012.

lenovo thinkpad x220 keyboard 92940
Lenovo ThinkPad x220 (year 2011) keyboard []

Added are the “backward page” and “forward page” keys for browser, next to the arrow keys.

Also added a physical sound volume up/down keys, speaker mute, and microphone mute keys.

The 2000's App Launcher keys are removed, as is the trend in keyboards.

ThinkPad Keyboard 2012

ThinkPad, starting in 2012, made a big change to their keyboard layout, and began to use “islands-style” keys.

The new design simplied the keyboard and is more suitable for modern usage. But this made many ThinkPad fan angry, as many beloved keys are gone. But also there are some seriously bad changes, such as flat-top keycaps.

Lenovo ThinkPad X240 keyboard
Lenovo Thinkpad Ultrabook X240 keyboard. Year 2013. Lenovo Thinkpad (thanks to [Gabriel Saldana])

Problems with the new layout:

Rarely used keys are removed. They are: Insert ▤ Menu Pause ScrollLock. [see Print Screen, SysRq, ScrLk, Pause, Break Keys] [see Keyboard Menu Key]

The browser backward and forward keys are also gone, but it's good change, because now with large multi-touch pad, it's easier to swipe the touch pad to go back or forward browser page.

ThinkPad Keyboard 2018

Lenovo Thinkpad L480 2021-07-02
Lenovo Thinkpad L480. Year 2018 Buy at amazon Photo by Jonas 2021-07-02

ThinkPad Keyboard 2020

Lenovo Thinkpad X13 Gen 1 2021-07-02
Lenovo Thinkpad X13 Gen 1 (Intel). Year 2020. Buy at amazon Photo by Rezii, 2021-07-01.

ThinkPad Keyboard 2023

ThinkPad T14 Gen 3 2023-03-30-s1600
ThinkPad T14 Gen 3 Buy at amazon 3456×4608 [photo by frenzie 2023-03-30]

ThinkPad External Keyboard

lenovo thinkpad keyboard 2017 01 14
ThinkPad USB Keyboard, 2017. ThinkPad keyboard

Famous IBM Keyboards